I flew to Southern California last Friday night with my family to celebrate Grandpa’s 90th birthday. Ninety. That’s hecka old! Visiting my grandparent’s home is always a very soothing warm experience. Grandma and Grandpa’s life here grew (just as they did in their old age) to slow down and become simple -something I find relaxing in stark contrast to my 20 something busy big city lifestyle. For my entire life growing up I spent extended Summer visits with Grandma and Grandpa here at their cozy little 2 bedroom house in suburban Fullerton -about 5 miles away from Disneyland.
At this very moment I am at Grandpa’s house sitting in a room that we call “The Den.” This is the space where us grandkids spent most of our indoor time watching old Disney movies like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Peter’s Dragon, Marry Poppins, The Sword and the Stone, and Pinocchio to name a few. For some reason my parents never really had these kinds of movies in stock back in Northern California -so it was always a real treat to get to watch them whenever I was spending lots of time with my grandparents. Looking around the room at this very moment, I am struck at how many of Grandma’s Teddy bears remain patiently seated on their shelves -sentry warriors of warm and loving stares. Grandma died last December -this is the first time I’ve returned here since her passing. Five days after her death, me, Dad, and everyone else arranged a “celebration of life” for Grandma here at the Fullerton house so that loved ones could be invited to remember and honor Grandma’s 84 years of life. Towards the end of the evening of Grandma’s celebration, Grandpa invited all 50 or so guests to take a few of Grandma’s bears with them on their way out to remember Grandma by. Just last night during Grandpa’s birthday dinner, Grandpa proudly recounted how, years before grandma’s passing, he had counted every bear in the house for the sake of enjoying the experience of having guests try to guess. He’d even go so far as to write down their guesses in a log book. 345 was the magic number. Today, with even less than half of that remaining, there still are enough bears around for me to clearly sense Grandma’s love and presence -and I don’t think that will ever change, really -even when all the bears are gone. It boggles my mind how lucky I was to have grow up with the magical childhood that I was blessed enough to have.
The innocence and joy of my childhood is something that I now carry around inside of me and it gives me a feeling that is hard to quantify: One where I am mystified and in love with the adventure and beauty of the world -yet, at the same time, I am disillusioned by some of life’s harsher realities. Sometimes I feel glad to have the convenience to be able to mold my life into a safe world built on belief, where I’m okay no matter what, everything is happy, and bears surround me showering their love and acceptance. Then there is the other side of the story that feels harsher to me: one that touts the existence of deadlines, expectations, production, and “cold hard facts.” Just writing that out makes me feel so biased. Clearly these paths are formed from the dichotomy of how I was raised: Mom and Grandma endowed me with the Teddy bear notion, while my Dad, endowed me with the “production” notion. I am biased because, so much of my life I have lived with an anxiety that I am “not enough” in the arena of “producing things.” Sure, for an outside it is easy to say “pfft! Seth, you produce a ton -it’s silly for you to think that you’re not ‘enough’ -what does that even mean, anyway?!” -but for me it is not that simple. I’ve been programed with a lifetime of experiences where I was given the message that I am completely apt as loving being, while, in terms of creating work output, I fall below the mark (which *reality check* -is not really the case -that is just the message that I emotionally picked up from my parents who had good intentions -but they just didn’t come across in as healthy of a way as what would have been more ideal… But hey, that’s life, eh? (<– One of the harsher realities that I’m talking about.)
So what’s it gonna be? Feather, or lead? I guess it isn’t really an “or” though, is it -more of a question of how much do I want to find balance in which directions. Lately I have been visiting the notion that perhaps my life has feels tipped a little to much toward the Teddy Bears. As a result of this feeling, I’ve been venturing more and more into the “production arena” (pushing forward with school, re-structuring and revamping my work ethic, getting my home and my appearance to be more how I want it to be, -Hell, even writing this blog!) What I’m finding is that, even though focusing on producing more does make me anxious (because it is an area where I battle with feeling “good enough”) -when I do produce and develop in areas that are important to me I feel happy and satisfied (if only, at least, halfheartedly -which is better than nothing.) “Short term pain for long term gain” 😉 It could be so easy for me to not push myself to excel -to avoid anxiety and just bask in the Teddy bears of “life is simple, beautiful, full of love -and that’s all that there is and that’s all that matters” but you know… I think I’d rather save that for when I’m retired, have earned it, and I have grandchildren of my own to spoil. For the time being, I’ll do my best to hybridize elements of the “Teddy bear notion” to wield it’s comfort and blend it with my emerging and ever strengthening “production notion” as I move forward with building the life that I want for myself.